OVER recent months, in care centres across Wales, an innovative social experiment has been taking place – and the results are astonishing.
In a new series of three emotional programmes on S4C, starting Sunday (Dec 10), ‘Hen Blant Bach’ shows what can happen when six children share their day care with a group of pensioners – and the potential transformational effects it can have.
Three day centres – in Garnant, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bangor – have taken part in the experiment where hidden cameras follow elderly people and children as they eat, play and build relationships with each other over three days. In addition, two psychologists from Bangor University listen in and set activities to bring the two generations closer together.
In the first programme, a day centre in Garnant, Carmarthenshire comes under the spotlight as children aged between two and four visit the centre from Cae’r Ffair nursery in Gorslas.
Dr Nia Williams is one of the psychologists from Bangor University taking part in the programme. She specialises in the development of children. She said: “The period up to the age of four is a key stage for children. What we want to know is what impact spending time with older people will have on this development.”
Dr Catrin Hedd Jones, a psychologist and lecturer in dementia studies at Bangor University, added: “Solitude can be an increasing problem as people get older and we know the older generation has so much to offer. In this way, older people have the opportunity to contribute rather than simply to receive care. By bringing children into their company, older people are encouraged to move and get out of their seats to enjoy activities with the children.”
One of the elderly people who benefited from the experience was Noel Francis McNamara, or Mac, who is 85. Before the filming started, Mac was concerned about how he would respond to the children because he’d had a very difficult time with mental illness over recent years.
“The change in him by the end of the three days was remarkable,” said day centre manager, Bernadette Thomas. “Initially, Mac was almost afraid of what would happen. But he has come alive with the children and been the Mac we know is there, but don’t always see.”
Through the tears and laughter, we will see that these two age groups have more in common than many would assume.